As a sports fan, I have seen the great things that athletes have done on the field. I have seen even greater things that they have done off the field. But I have also seen some pretty dumb decisions by these athletes. And sometimes, these decisions have unfortunate results.
So when I found out about Aldon Smith’s stabbing incident over the weekend, I didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that Smith is an idiot. Granted getting stabbed is a serious incident and there have to some really unsafe circumstances to lead to the injury.
But I often feel like that we are quick to judge. At least people in the media, it’s always an assumption of one thing or another because we love to label things. I try not to do it as much as I normally do in real life.
I find myself to be very critical of people all the time. I question parenting methods from others because I see their children out of control. I question my friends for trying too hard to put up an image when I know it just isn’t working. It’s the standard I put on people. I’d like to think that the human race is much more intelligent than these actions lead me to believe.
Which leads me back to Smith. Under normal circumstances, I would agree with some people and judge him for not being smarter. How could he have had such a huge party and have irresponsible people around? And this doesn’t help after his DUI in January. Why isn’t he smarter?
But I can’t. At least when it comes to athletes, I don’t feel like I am as critical. And a part of this is because I might understand the athlete a little better than other kind of people.
I took a lot of sociology studies in sports classes en route to my degree at SJSU. From those classes, I got a better idea of what might go on in the athletes’ mind. And because of that, I can’t just call it a black and white issue. And I think for those people who do call it that, they should reconsider.
Smith is in a situation that very few of us understand. It’s unfair to label him based off his rocky offseason. Being 22 years old, famous and with a lot of money can change a person. It’s easy to say that money won’t change your feelings, but you’ll never know until you actually have that kind of money.
And that’s what Smith probably was going through. Even with his clean background, maybe he’s just trying to find a way to figure out his place now. And in his search, it took an unfortunate turn.
In college, there are no classes that are offered to student-athletes to prepare them for stardom. There are no classes that team them how to handle their multi-million dollar contracts. There are no classes that offer them advice, counseling for the immediate future after college.
So for Smith, he came into the league learning on the fly. He has friends and family that he can trust to help him, but there are some things he can learn on his own. Some could say that the NFL does offer those chances to learn, but Smith missed out on it last year due to the lockout. He’s still learning on his own and on the fly.
I’d like to believe that if I was 22, rich and famous, I’d too would like to throw a party and have fun. I’d like to also believe that I would be able to assure that every person at the party is responsible. I’d also like to believe that I’d be smart and make good decisions.
But I can’t make those assumptions because I don’t know how I would act if I was in that situation. I can wonder, but I’ll never know. I’m not rich, famous or a year removed from college. I don’t like to have huge house parties and I am not the kind of guy that likes to drink all that much.
This doesn’t mean that I am giving Smith a pass for his decision. Drunk driving is bad no matter if you’re rich or poor. The same can be said about having wild parties with people that are dangerous. There are no excuses for any of that and I believe Smith should be punished for it.
But in the back of my mind, I still wonder how much control Smith has over the things that are going on in his life. It’s not easy being young, rich and famous. Along with it comes temptations, dangerous people and a lot of tough situations.
Some people handle it well and some people don’t. Smith, I hope, is learning from these mistakes. I just can’t judge him like I do because I don’t know what’s it’s like. But I understand that it isn’t easy. I just hope now he’s putting himself at a higher standard of responsibility.